Henry Forster, 1st Baron Forster

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Forster
GCMG, PC, DL
Ac.forster.jpg
7th Governor-General of Australia
In office
6 October 1920 – 8 October 1925
Monarch George V
Preceded by Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson
Succeeded by The Lord Stonehaven
Member of Parliament
for Bromley
In office
30 December 1918 – 12 December 1919
Preceded by New constituency
Succeeded by Cuthbert James
Member of Parliament
for Sevenoaks
In office
26 July 1892 – 30 December 1918
Preceded by Charles Mills
Succeeded by Sir Thomas Bennett
Personal details
Born (1866-01-31)31 January 1866
Catford, Kent,
United Kingdom
Died 15 January 1936(1936-01-15) (aged 69)
London, United Kingdom

Henry William Forster, 1st Baron Forster, GCMG, PC, DL (31 January 1866 – 15 January 1936), was a British Conservative Party politician who became the seventh Governor-General of Australia.

Background and education[edit]

He was born at Southend Hall, Catford, then in Kent, England, the son of an Army officer. He was educated at Eton and Oxford. He was a first-class cricketer who played for Oxford University and Hampshire, as well as for various amateur teams as a lower-order right-handed batsman and an orthodox left-arm spin bowler.[1] He served as president of the Marylebone Cricket Club. He was also keen on yachting and horse-racing.

Political career[edit]

Forster entered the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Sevenoaks at the 1892 general election.[2] He held that seat until 1918,[3] when he was elected for the new Bromley constituency.[4] In 1901, he was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Kent.[5] He served as a Lord of the Treasury from 1902 to 1905 in the Conservative Government of Arthur Balfour and as Financial Secretary to the War Office from 1915 to 1919 in the wartime coalition government. In 1919 he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Forster, of Lepe in the County of Southampton.[6]

Governor-General of Australia[edit]

In June 1920 Forster was offered the post of Governor-General of Australia, which he accepted. Shortly afterwards, on 28 June 1920, he was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG). This was the first occasion on which the Australian government was genuinely consulted about the appointment of a Governor-General. The Colonial Secretary, Lord Milner, sent the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, two other suggested appointments before Hughes approved of Forster. Hughes seems to have preferred Forster because he was a man of modest reputation whom he thought he could control. His reputation as a sportsman was also an asset.

Forster arrived in October 1920. He found that the congenial atmosphere of pre-war Australian politics had been shattered by the bitter battles of the wartime period. Hughes's Nationalist Party dominated the political scene. The Labor Party had moved to the left in opposition and was now anti-imperialist and pacifist, and more markedly socialist.

But Forster played almost no direct role in Australian politics during his five years in the country. There was only one change of government during his term, when Hughes was replaced by Stanley Bruce in February 1923, and Forster took no part in the manoeuverings that led to the change. As Australia became more independent and more confident in its international relations, the role of the Governor-General as an overseer and intermediary declined. Forster's predecessor, Ronald Munro Ferguson, had resisted this trend, but Forster was not a strong enough personality to do so.

Instead Forster's role became more like that of a modern Governor-General: opening fetes, visiting hospitals, attending sporting events, hosting balls and banquets. As a result, he became considerably more popular than most of his predecessors, but exercised less real influence than any of them. Forster and his wife Rachel devoted themselves to charities, and Forster spent much time travelling to all the states and country areas, unveiling war memorials and making patriotic speeches. The day of the decorative Governor-General had arrived.

In 1925, a new women's hospital in Redfern, Sydney was named the "Rachel Forster Hospital for Women" in Lady Forster's honour.[7] The hospital is now closed and the former site has been redeveloped.[8] There is a "Lady Forster Kindergarten" in Elwood, Victoria,named after Lady Forster who was a leading supporter.[9]


The Forsters departed Australia in October 1925, well liked but unremarked.

Family[edit]

Lord Forster married the Honourable Rachel Cecily Douglas-Scott-Montagu, daughter of the 1st Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, in 1890. After Forster's return from Australia they settled near Southampton, and lived quietly until Forster's death in 1936. Lady Forster was invested as a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1926. She was also invested as a Dame of Grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.[10]

They had two sons, John Forster and Alfred Henry Forster, who were both killed in the First World War, and two daughters, Dorothy Charlotte Forster and Emily Rachel Forster. Because Lord Forster had no surviving sons, the barony of Forster became extinct on his death.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Player Profile: Henry Forster". CricketArchive. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 308. ISBN 0-900178-27-2. 
  3. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "S" (part 2)[self-published source][better source needed]
  4. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 110. ISBN 0-900178-06-X. 
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27282. p. 998. 8 February 1901.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 31692. p. 15618. 16 December 1919.
  7. ^ [1], [2]
  8. ^ Major Project Application - Rachel Forster Hospital MP 07_0029 - On Exhibition – REDWatch - Redfern Eveleigh Darlington Waterloo Watch Group
  9. ^ "Lady Forster Kindergarten". 
  10. ^ thePeerage.com - Person Page 6852

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles Mills
Member for Sevenoaks
18921918
Succeeded by
Thomas Jewell Bennett
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bromley
19181919
Succeeded by
Cuthbert James
Political offices
Preceded by
Harold Baker
Financial Secretary to the War Office
1915–1919
Succeeded by
Sir Archibald Williamson, Bt
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson
Governor-General of Australia
1920–1925
Succeeded by
The Lord Stonehaven
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Forster
1919–1936
Extinct